After the hugs and high fives on the pitch, the emotion spilled over outside the University Oval pavilion.
New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum, having twice embraced the man he succeeded, Ross Taylor, on the field, stumbled into the arms of wife Ellissa and two children in the late afternoon sun.
"He's knackered . . . the word he used was cooked," said Taylor after the pair rattled up emotion-charged centuries on day one of the first test against the West Indies in Dunedin. And there's more to come today as McCullum (109) and Taylor (103) both resume with New Zealand in total control at 367-3.
There were so many threads to this storyline, and the fact they buried some demons on the same stage. A year ago this Saturday, McCullum was unveiled as the shattered Taylor's successor as captain, hardly a formula for a long-lasting friendship. Their rivalry gripped cricket fans for months.
"No, we're team-mates [not rivals]," said Taylor. "We want to do well for the team and for the country. There's always going to be that comparison with us until he retires or I retire. But we can't control that."
McCullum was under more pressure heading into his 80th test, in his home city, with his century drought stretching back more than three years to India in 2010.
Battling a serious back injury involving protruding discs and arthritis, which threatens his career, he had 85 runs from his past seven test innings. McCullum couldn't make double figures for his Albion club on Saturday, and batted awfully in the nets on Sunday, Taylor said.
"Sometimes when you really want to do well you over-train and he was doing that. His balance was all over the place. There were a couple of words from other people and I just kept saying ‘keep your balance' [yesterday] and his balance was beautiful. He played the strokes that he's famous for and he was back to the Brendon of old."
That was too much for a very poor West Indies attack, playing a rushed itinerary which saw the bulk of their squad only arrive from India on Saturday. Energetic paceman Tino Best was the best of a bad lot but only had Aaron Redmond's wicket to show for it.
They'd won the toss on a grassy, emerald surface that didn't seam as much as expected, and chased leather in the final session as McCullum and Taylor plundered an unbroken 182 off 231 balls.
Taylor had battled a knee injury but looked imperious after gloving one over the cordon off Best on two. He set the platform, McCullum struggled for early timing then launched. The skipper blazed his seventh test century off 101 balls with three booming sixes, including one off spinner Shane Shillingford into the very practice nets he's struggled in.
Taylor raised his ninth test century nine balls after McCullum, off 151 balls, with his 13th boundary. Cue another mid-pitch hug. Taylor hadn't raised a test ton in over a year, since Sri Lanka in Colombo which was New Zealand's most recent win. It also turned out to be his last as captain.
The pair will now try and rumble past 500 and an unbeatable lead. The pitch will flatten out to a typical easy paced batting surface and New Zealand's attack will have to toil hard to get 20 wickets. But it's difficult to see the bleary-eyed tourists escaping this ambush in the south.
The West Indies were in the game when Hamish Rutherford (62) and Peter Fulton (61) both played loose shots after a 95-run opening stand. Then Redmond (20), looking in great nick in his first test in five years, got squared up by Best and it appeared the wobbles were on.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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